Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: Lannie Flowers “Circles”

The 2010 sophomore release from powerpop artist Lannie Flowers is called “Circles”, featuring a hefty 15 new tracks. The record follows 2008’s "Same Old Story," which was the Album of the Year according to Power Pop Station. Lannie Flowers is from Texas and his first band, The Pengwins, covered songs by T. Rex, David Bowie, and Mott the Hoople. This 70s rock influence still resonates in his material today.

Lannie Flowers wastes no time getting to the title track, stacking it right up front. “Circles” swirls effortlessly down the ear canal, reminding me of the early classics by the Posies. Many of us can relate to the spinning-my-wheels theme of “Circles”, which crops up quite often throughout the record. “Turn Up Your Radio” is another tasty nugget of ear candy, mixing the pop riffs of Cheap Trick with the taste of 70s bubblegum harmonies. “Around The World” is a glistening pop tune that boasts Beatlesque melodies with bright piano accents. “Not In Love”, complete with hand claps, is an irresistible sing-a-long and excellent choice for a single. Once again, the lyrics touch on a topic we can all relate to – rushing into a relationship but regretting it before long. His 70s idols show their face on several other cuts: “C’mon Over” is bursting with Raspberries goodness, and I’ll bet you’ll be able to your ‘finger’ on the band that likely inspired “Where Does Love Go”. Two strong cuts end the album memorably, the crunchy “Lookin’ For You” and the sweet acoustic ditty, “Rusty Circles”, which brings the themes of the record full circle.

“Circles” is a HUGE winner of an album. Sunny tunes, universal lyrics, George Harrison styled solos, and more hooks than a Bait n’ Tackle shop - Lannie Flowers is a new leader in modern powerpop.

“Circles” is available now, and you can download the first single, “Not In Love” for FREE at the web site. Check out Lannie Flowers if you like the Posies, Cheap Trick, The Raspberries, or Wanderlust.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 11, 14, 15

Lannie Flowers on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “Circles”

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

L.A. GUNS "L.A. Guns" (1988)
L.A. Guns was the early incarnation of the legendary Guns N' Roses, formed in the early 80s and fronted by Axl Rose and Tracii Guns before both of them parted ways. Axl went on to form GNR and Tracii resurrected L.A.Guns. After some shuffling, a solid five man formation eventually became the classic line up and released this debut in 1988 under Vertigo.

What I like about L.A. Guns is that they had raw energy and a sleazy attitude, and they stayed rooted to the heaviness of early glam. Try pumping up the volume when you hit your player with "No Mercy", "Sex Action", and "One More Reason". Those really are unmerciful, earth-scorching fantastic songs. Probably the only song that I didn't dig that much is the bluesy wail of "One Way Ticket" because I was just hoping for a full 11 blasting tracks from start to finish. Hearing tracks such as "Electric Gypsy" or "Hollywood Tease" could make you feel like you are standing and shouting in a packed bar on Sunset Strip. After more than 20 years, this album remains their greatest record - nothing can top this sensational debut.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rare Trax: Toad the Wet Sprocket "In My Ear"

Every Saturday at BMF we present rare or deep tracks from my collection for your listening pleasure, or perhaps for your amusement!

This week’s track is by Toad the Wet Sprocket from their breakthrough 1991 album, "Fear". "In My Ear" should have been in a single - features their signature sunny melodies but with some of the most biting lyrics, such as "Never meant half of the things that I said to you know there's a half that might be true" and "I am standing with the perfect view - I could not go far enough away from you".

Listen to "In My Ear"

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rare CD: Reckless Youth "Invisible Robot Fish"

"Reckless Youth - Invisible Robot Fish, released in 1993.
If you like Sleazy Hard Rock then you need this cd, only 5 songs but they all rock.
this is a must have.

1 Beg, Borrow & Steal
2 Any Little Girl's Wish
3 One More Night Alone
4 No Way
5 When It's Over

Cd: Mint
Inserts: Mint"

Sold for $138.05 on ebay.

Rare CD: Foxx "Gangster of Love"

1993 AMG
Cd in very good Condition and comes complete

Gangster Of Love
Almost There
Shot of Your Love
Don't Say Goodbye
The Heart is Won
Fire It Up
Devil's Dance
I'll Be There In Time
Heartbeat in a Heart"

Sold for $275.00 on ebay.

Rare CD: Atlanta Rhythm Section "Are You Ready"

"ATLANTA RHYTHM SECTION - are you ready!*
# 513746-2
MATRIX: 513 746-2 01 /

Sold for $350.00 on ebay.

Rare CD: Jackie Evancho "Prelude To A Dream"

"This is a rare copy of Jackie Evancho's first CD. It is one of only 4,000 in existance - many of which were recalled from distributors before they could be sold. This CD was shipped to one of the initial members of the Jackie Evancho Fan Club , Rick (Rex) Marshall in November of 2009, before Jackie appeared on "America's Got Talent". Rick's name appears inside the cover of Jackie's second CD and is thanked for his his contribution to her success. The CD was purchased directly from Jackie's Father, Mike Evancho.

The CD is in NEW condition - never opened, in original seal, and handelled with care! This is a great opportunity for TRUE Jackie Evancho fans and collectors of rare art!"

Sold for $1775 on ebay.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: Kasey Anderson and The Honkies “Heart Of A Dog”

This Seattle and Portland-based band is composed of Kasey Anderson (vocals, guitar, percussion), Andrew KcKeag (guitar, vocals), Eric Corson (bass), and Mike Musburger (drums). Some of these names may be familiar to you…McKeag has spent time in Presidents of the United States of America and The Long Winters, Corson in The Long Winters, and Musburger from The Fastbacks, Young Fresh Fellows, The Posies, The Supersuckers, and countless other cult Seattle power-pop and indie-rock bands. The band resents the label “roots rock” and just wanted to make a straight up “rock and roll record” this time out.

Their latest effort, ““Heart Of A Dog”, begins with a gritty song called “The Wrong Light”, which serves as an appropriate introduction to a band that can sizzle and groove. “Mercy" is much more accessible, quite a refined pop roadhouse song with an infectious sing-a-long chorus - it is one of my favorites off the record. “Exit Ghost” is another wonderful tune, driven by hardy piano, rustic vocals and harmonies. Another crowd pleaser will be “Sirens and Thunder”, with its greasy slide guitar and alt-country vibe. “My Baby’s A Wrecking Ball” is a fun little romp and “Save It For Later” ends things on a foot stompin’ high note. Beyond these highlights are several ballads and jams that are in step with the other tunes, but just don’t leap off the page.

Try as they might, I am not sure “Heart Of A Dog” is going to steer them clear of the roots rock label, but I hope the band realizes that this is not a bad thing! Kasey Anderson and The Honkies release "Heart of a Dog" (Red River Records) on February 15. Recommended if you like Will Hoge, Tom Petty, or Pete Droge.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 5, 8, 11

Kasey Anderson and The Honkies on MySpace.

Listen to “Mercy”

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: Watts “On The Dial”

As one might expect from a band named after the drummer for The Rolling Stones, Watts is all about rock and roll – pure and simple. “On The Dial” features 12 new cuts from this New England band, whose music brings the bar to you in case you can’t get to the bar. A bit of roadhouse, smattering of blues, and plenty of tight crunchy guitar is “watt” you get.

Watts is: Dan Kopko (vocals/guitar), John Blout (guitar/vocals), Craig LaPointe (bass/vocals), and John Lynch (drums/vocals). The guys have produced a remarkably cohesive album, and even though they switch lead vocalists on some tracks, their tones are so similar that a causal listener would mistake it for the same guy throughout. What sort of tone are we talking about here? Think Faces-era Rod Stewart combined with Bill Janovitz (Buffalo Tom) and a touch of Josh Todd (Buchcherry). The smoky rasp in the vocals is very fitting to the music. With an album this consistent, some might complain that the lack of dynamics make the songs sound too much alike one another, but you just can’t go wrong with memorable cuts like the ripping title track, the smoldering “Chaperone”, and the Social Distortion styled romp of “She Wants To Rock”.

Fat free rock and roll that shakes the paint off the barroom walls…thankfully someone out there is still doing it, and doing it well. They’ve got the rock swagger down, and should now focus on crafting a catchier hook in each song.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 5, 7

Watts on MySpace. Facebook.

Listen to “On The Dial”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: Social Distortion “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes”

Social Distortion, or just Social D to fans, has been churning out their brand of punk rock since their formation in the late 70s. Their breakthrough came a decade later with a self-titled record, spawning hits like “Ball and Chain” and “Ring of Fire”, a great cover of the classic Johnny Cash song. Led by the distinctive voice of Mike Ness, the boys enjoyed a little more success but faded out in the early 90s. Their latest effort, “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes”, finds them plugging away at the same equation they’ve had on the board since day one.

“Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” could have been the launchpad for a deserved comeback – the music scene feels ripe for a band like Social D. There will no doubt be a rush felt by fans of the band when that trademark voice of Ness gravels its way through the crunchy guitars – it made me smile at first. But the problem with the record as a whole is its lack of memorable songs. There is a maturity in the songwriting, but it seems to come at the expense of the youthful angst the guys were celebrated for in the past. Can’t be too hard on the band for this – three decades later, they are not young men.

“California (Hustle And Flow)” is a worthy cut, not unlike “Bad Luck”, bolstered by luminous gospel vocals in the chorus. Although markedly less invigorating, “Gimme The Sweet And Lowdown” treads classic Social D territory. Ness nails the melancholy note on the excellent “Writing On The Wall”, and the tuneful, autobiographical “Still Alive” takes the album out on a high note. The record also contains a terrific cover of the Hank Williams tune “Alone and Forsaken”.

“Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” has a little something from most every album in the band’s discography, with bias towards their more recent output. Check it out if you are a fan of their last record…this one pretty much picks up where “Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll” left off.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 8, 9, 11

Social DistortionOfficial site.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Review: The Seldon Plan “Coalizione del Volere”

Baltimore’s own, Seldon Plan, return with a new record entitled, “Coalizione del Volere” . Consisting of only 8 songs lasting a total of 24 minutes, it may well be considered an EP. We last heard from them on their third record, “Lost and Found and Lost” (review here).

The Seldon Plan writes music for the thinking, sophisticated pop rock fan. With more intellectual lyrical content and intricate song structures, songs by The Seldon Plan usually take a few spins to sink in and appreciate. The catchiness of the melodies that jumped out to impress me last time is not as obvious on this effort. “Fractionation” is a potent start, however, with atmospheric verses leading up to a climatic chorus that is eagerly welcomed when it comes around again. The burst of energy dissipates into the more laid back “Fool’s Gold” and “Starlette Pendant”, both of which are OK. There is an aching beauty to “Fool’s Gold” that many fans will adore. “Love Your Way” and “Our Time In Rockland County” are much more up my alley – upbeat and instantly catchy, with some cool harmony work. “Millennials” is quite the grower as well (video below).

Recommended if you like The Churchills, The Weakerthans, or The Feelies.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 6, 7

The Seldon Plan on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for “Millennials”

The Seldon Plan- Millennials from The Seldon Plan on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

The final album of the duet Robin McAuley and Michael Schenker, which was released in 1992, was the first MSG album I heard. It eventually became my favorite MSG release. This is an album that was packed with lots of commercial edged melodic rock, powerful ballads, huge harmonic background chants, and thrilling solos. And let’s not forget that Jeff Pilson and James Kottak were also strengthening this magical line-up.

"Eve" rolled like an assaulting fireball shot out from Schenker's Gibson Flying-V, creating sparks in the sky with its monstrous chorus. "This Broken Heart" pumped up the tempo with the shaky chorus good for dancing. I also love the giant melodic lines in their ballads, "When I'm Gone", "We Believe In Love", and "This Night Is Gonna Last Forever". "What Happens To Me" could have been a wonderful Scorpions track. MSG smartly put the acoustic and haunting track called "Nightmare" at the end, which cooled off the heat and lets the album fade away.

This record is clearly a winner to all melodic hearts and as they have written the lyric, "love like this will never come again", that's what really happened to me with MSG. Nothing from his old and new catalogue could have ever top this one, a great buy!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rare Trax: 4 Reasons Unknown "I Will Surrender"

Every Saturday at BMF we present rare or deep tracks from my collection for your listening pleasure, or perhaps for your amusement!

This week’s track is by a band called 4 Reasons Unknown from their self-titled 1988 record (and their only record to the best of my knowledge). This album was recorded thanks to the band winning MTV's Basement Tapes show. The first (and only?) single, "I Will Surrender", was in rotation for quite a while at MTV, but the band never took off. I think they should have been bigger - the CD is very good 80s era pop/dance rock.

Listen to "I Will Surrender"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: August Christopher “ac”

August Christopher is a modern rock trio comprised of Criss Cheatham (vocals, guitar), Corey Boise (drums), and Steve Price (bass). Known for their no-nonsense rock and energetic, freestyling live show (although I’ve not seen one yet), this band is shooting for the stars. They’ve made some significant headway so far, opening for the likes of Sugar Ray, Train, Nickelback, and Tonic. Criss Cheatham also earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for “Longest Concert By A Solo Artist” (24 hours straight). August Christopher has released 3 studio albums and 5 live albums and sold over 10,000 records on their own.

“ac” is a multisession disc with studio and live recordings. Thundering drums greet us to “Leaving Town”, a catchy radio-friendly anthem if I ever heard one. Cheatham’s vocals sound commercial enough, with a tone suitable for mainstream rock as well as Southern rock. “Just Friends” and “Star” are also infectious tunes, featuring verses propelled by very busy bass lines, universal lyrics, and a sing-a-long chorus with great harmonies. The “ooh-la-la-la” lines in “Candy Girl” make this tune even sweeter, while the bouncing guitars in “All Alone” make you want to get up and groove. Another one of my favorites was “Inside Her Head”, a complete package of smart melodies, heartfelt vocals, and a sizzling guitar solo. August Christopher proves they can do more than rock out with folky ballads like “I Don’t Feel Love”, decorated with gentle strings and harmonica, and the mildly reggae flavored “All That Matters (Is You)”.

August Christopher is a refreshing blast of feel good rock and pop – and best of all, they know how to write the kind of melody that you’ll want to come back and hear again. For fans of Collective Soul, Train, or Gin Blossoms.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9

August Christopher on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “Just Friends”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review: Genuine Fakes “The Striped Album”

I knew I was going to like this band after hearing just a couple of notes to their self-titled introductory piece. That, plus the fact that this record cracked the top 10 of many “best of 2010” lists. The Genuine Fakes are a new pop rock outfit from Sweden and this record shows they mean business. They are out to put powerpop and moustaches back in style!

Three long and hard years were spent perfecting this debut, but the songs play as if they rolled out effortlessly. The band sounds like they are genuinely having fun, and this sunny spirit radiates throughout their music, leaving the listener feeling warm and fuzzy all over. Each song is meticulously crafted, down to every “ooh” and “aah”. With no filler to be found on “The Striped Album”, it is difficult to choose which songs to highlight. “The Promise” gets things off to a proper start, with its engaging verses building to a hugely melodic chorus complete with wonderful backing vocals. “When Reality Hits You” follows a similar formula, and with its Partridge Family styled chorus, it turns out to be another memorable success. My other favorites include “Star”, “I Don’t Want It”, and “Mindset”. The band also does their own take on the Beyoncé ballad, “Irreplaceable”, virtually unrecognizable as a peppy rocker.

You’ll have real love for The Genuine Fakes if you like The Merrymakers, Owsley, or Bleu. “The Striped Album” is available now – don’t miss it! One of the year’s best pieces of ear candy for sure.

iPOD-worthy: ALL TRACKS!

Genuine Fakes on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “When Reality Hits You”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Andy Pratt “Andy Pratt Loves You”

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andy Pratt has been on his roller coaster ride through the music business since the 70s, when he scored his commercial hit “Avenging Annie”. While many may remember him as the one-hit wonder, he is still going strong with his wild, reverse Mohawk flapping around him on each side as he pounds the keyboard. Many folks don’t realize he’s cranked out over 20 albums through the years. His latest record is simply called “Andy Pratt Loves You”, and it features a dozen new tracks for fans of this veteran musician.

Two key things about Andy Pratt: 1) his voice takes a little getting used to (kind of like Bee Gees meets Gilbert O’Sullivan), and 2) his songs are upbeat and positive. Generally his songs are quite catchy and well produced with a pleasant blend of acoustic and electric guitars, solid rhythms, and occasional piano/keys. He still engages in some musical experimentation, recalling his early work decades ago. For example, he'll toss in some spoken words or unleash his crazy falsetto - sometimes it is hard to tell if Pratt is serious or joking. His songs sound rooted in 70s pop melodies, but his writing really is timeless.

“Andy Pratt Loves You” has a perfect balance of upbeat, slow, and midtempo pop rockers. The record kicks off with “It’s Not The End Of The World”, with a gorgeous piano melody - it reminds me a bit of New Radicals. “Take It All Away” is slower, but the breezy atmosphere makes this one too easy on the ears to resist. “Home Of The Brave” sounds like something off a Five For Fighting record. Things cool off for a while, but then his wicked falsetto will wake you up for “Sing”. I’m on the fence about this one – pretty good melody, but that falsetto rubs me the wrong way. Other highlights include “I’m All Alone” and “I Don’t Care Anymore”.

As Pratt has said, “I hate ugly music”. There’s nothing ugly about the tunes gracing his latest record, so try developing an acquired taste for this talent.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 9, 11

Andy Pratt on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “It’s Not The End Of The World”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: Manic Street Preachers “Postcards From a Young Man”

RockManic Street Preachers, the acclaimed Welsh trio, has released their 10th studio album, “Postcards From a Young Man”. Being together so long, it is not surprising that the band’s sound has changed a lot over the years –they’ve moved on from the raw, angst-ridden garage rock of their early days. Their recent work has become more polished and accessible, with heavy attention devoted to melody. The band continues to put a premium on high quality lyrics, and “Postcards From a Young Man” is filled with slick production that includes choirs, strings, mandolins, and more. While quite the departure from “The Holy Bible”, if you were a fan of “Send Away The Tigers”, you’ll love the new record.

“Postcards From a Young Man” had me at the first song, “It's Not War Just the End of Love”. The track sets the tone for this more musically mature release, filled with dramatic strings and moving melodies. The vocals are still sung with gusto. The title track is an emotional piece that lays out the theme of this record - looking at life through an aging lens – and it is another over the top effort. The mid-tempo “Some Kind Of Nothingness” skillfully incorporates a gospel-like chorus, which on paper would have been a tough sell for me – but it is very effective and stirring. Ian McCulloch of Echo and the Bunnymen fame guests on this track. The middle of the record stays strong with highlights like the poppy “Auto Intoxication” and “I Think I Found It”. The fast paced “A Billion Balconies Facing the Sun” is one of the strongest cuts, taking the album out to a satisfying conclusion. It was very hard to pick favorites because so many of the songs are truly remarkable.

The early albums from Manic Street Preachers are now the band’s “Postcards From a Young Man”. Their latest CD displays an evolved sound that may alienate fans of their initial work, but we can’t stay young forever. I think Manic Street Preachers is walking tall in their new shoes and “Postcards From a Young Man” is one of my favorite releases by this diverse and talented band.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12

Manic Street PreachersOfficial site.

Check out the video for “Some Kind Of Nothingness”
Manic Street Preachers

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Prime Suspect “Prime Suspect”

Melodic rock/AOR
Prime Suspect is the new project stemming from Khymera players Daniele Liverani, Tommy Ermolli and Dario Ciccioni. The experience Liverani has had in prog rock (Empty Tremor) combines with the forces of straight up melodic rock that results in music that should appeal to both groups of fans. At the vocal helm is Olaf Senkbeil from the German band Dreamtide, who often reminds me of Klaus Meine (The Scorpions). In addition, two tracks were penned by acclaimed Swedish songwriter Christian Wolff (On The Rise, Johnny Lima, Mecca) - “What Do You Want?” and “It Could’ve Been You”.

The self-titled record is off to an energetic start with all members realizing their potential on “What Do You Want?” This one is quickly followed with a great one-two punch in the upbeat “I’ll Be Fine” and mid-tempo “Change This World”. Things slow down with “I Never Knew”, which features a dated glistening piano – the first track that leaves me cold. Things pick back up with the bright and punchy “I Would Like To Reach The Sun”, but nothing struck me too much until the fantastic “Deep In My Heart”. “Deep In My Heart” is a perfectly infectious midtempo rocker and a contender for my favorite track on the CD. In short, “Prime Suspect” boasts solid performances all around with some subtle prog rock references, but some of the tunes are not as memorable as the highlights.

“Prime Suspect” is a worthy debut album of European AOR, aimed to please fans of Khymera, Last Autumn’s Dream, or The Scorpions. The record is out now.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 8

Prime Suspect on MySpace.

Listen to “What Do You Want?”

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda


Unlike many glam metal bands in the mid 80s that were fueled with hairspray, spandex, and booze, Tesla emerged as a different earthy band playing real deal of rock and roll in blue jeans and plain shirts as their uniform. The fact is that they're far from pop metal and more of a traditional heavy/blues metal band, but since they toured extensively with many glam bands, the media labeled the band as one of them. Never crossed anyone's mind that a bunch of tomato farmers and cement truck driver like them could possess indisputably miraculous talents, and "Mechanical Resonance" is proof of how smart they blend the retro ingredients of classic 70s rock and blues with the 80s hard rock vibe.

"EZ Come EZ Go" relentlessly moves fast between the relaxing verse and heavier chorus. "Getting Better" crawls with an emotional vocal before bursting into a powerful rocker. "Rock Me To The Top" is an astonishingly great upbeat tune and "Modern Day Cowboy" is everyone's favorite. Tesla cracked a one minute acoustical jam on their cover of Ph.D’s "Little Suzi", which later inspired their timeless classic, "Love Song”. Many other great songs to like here, such as "Cumin' Atcha Live", the lazy and bluesy "We're No Good Together", or the classic Bad Company-like song, "Love Me".

Tesla is one of the few bands hard to hate since they always concentrated in making great music with splendid lyrics – they partied less and never betrayed their roots. This album is one of their most remarkable and the landmark record that started the whole journey. If you're new to the band, "Mechanical Resonance" is a perfect starter.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rare Trax: Lisa Loeb "Keep On Loving You"

Every Saturday at BMF we present rare or deep tracks from my collection for your listening pleasure, or perhaps for your amusement!

This week’s track is by Lisa Loeb. It is a cover of REO Speedwagon's big hit "Keep On Loving You". I don't think this live performance (or a studio version) ever made it onto one of her albums. Enjoy!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: VEGA “Kiss Of Life”

Melodic Rock/AOR
VEGA is a melodic rock outfit featuring former KICK vocalist Nick Workman and the notable song writing partnership of Tom and James Martin (House of Lords, Ted Poley, Sunstorm to name but a few). Their debut album “Kiss of Life” has been produced by John Greatwood and features 12 slices of AOR that combine the classic 80s styles with more contemporary guitar tones.

Workman has an incredible voice with an amazing range – well suited for the tasks of quality AOR in the grand tradition of Journey. With his dynamic range, I can characterize VEGA as sounding like a hybrid between Judas Priest and Survivor. In fact, on some of the songs, I could swear the guys hacked Jim Peterik’s computer and stole some of his keyboard tones. No matter, what results is a very enjoyable AOR record built for 2011. The first three tracks are among the strongest (“Into The Wild”, “One Of A Kind”, and the title track), introducing us to the best VEGA has to offer right up front. These are huge arena-ready rockers with uplifting vocals and soaring riffs. Additional highlights include “Headlights”, “Stay With Me” and “Wonderland”.

I recommend VEGA for fans of traditional and modern AOR – this band delivers the perfect blend of both. “Kiss Of Life” is available now and VEGA will be on the road in 2011 taking it to the fans live on stage.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 10

VEGA on MySpace.

Listen to "Into The Wild"

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Dave Stephens “Time Will Tell”

Dave Stephens is a singer/songwriter based in Southern California, who – after two hard years of toiling away - just released his third album, “Time Will Tell”. You can hear some clear Beatles influences in his writing and in some of his vocal inflections, but Stephens also incorporates modern styles into his music, along the lines of David Gray or even some early Radiohead (“Pablo Honey” era).

The songs on “Time Will Tell” are generally well done, meticulously crafted and performed – no better example of this than the sweeping title track. After a couple listens of the whole package, “Time Will Tell” is a decent powerpop record, but overall I wish the hooks were stronger. Stephens has a serviceable voice; while it is not going to blow you away, some will find it rather soothing. Among the tracks that I liked right away is “Tragedy”, a picture-perfect powerpop tune with plenty of crunchy guitar bouncing through the melody. “Peace Of Mind” is a pleasant and breezy piece, with some interesting chord progressions reminding me a lot of something the band James would do. “You Are Mine, I Am Yours” is another happy-go-lucky number that you’ll want to hear more than once – it ties with “Tragedy” as the best song on the CD for me. Finally, “Falling Away” is an epic ballad that closes the record on a compelling note.

So I’m not sure I’d say the third time is a charm for Stephens, but there are several tunes on “Time Will Tell” that won’t disappoint.

iPOD-worthy: 4, 5, 8, 11

Dave Stephens - Official site.

Listen to “Tragedy”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review: The Silver Liners “The Silver Liners” [EP]

The DC band The Silver Liners is back with a new six pack of an EP, which follows last year’s "Just Like The Rest" (reviewed here). The new one is self-titled and pretty much picks up where these good time rockers left off. Half of this EP is fantastic, the other half not so much. “Runnin' Through My Head” kicks things off, and it is a great fun and funky rocker – like Prince meets Collective Soul. “Hot Mess” is standard Silver Liners fare sure to please fans of the last EP – and surely pleased me. “American Girl” has a great vocal hook in the chorus that will have you singing along in no time. A couple of the other tracks had potential but just didn’t do it for me. “Better Than Your Boyfriend” is more like a great idea than a song – a cool riff and lyric, but it is too redundant and gets tiring about halfway through. “Without A Face” is a bit bland, and the effects applied to the vocals ruin it for me (Nemeyer has an awesome rock tone, so adding effects like this is like keying your favorite car). Fortunately, the EP ends well with the 80s-flavored rocker “Just Like The Rest” – great tune. Despite a couple missteps on this one, there is obviously a lot of potential in The Silver Liners, and I look forward to their next offering.

The Silver Liners on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Various artists “Californication Season 4” Television Soundtrack

Now in its fourth season on Showtime, “Californication” is a sensation. The show, which stars David Duchovny as Hank Moody, has a close connection to music – this season, his teenage daughter Becca (played by Madeleine Martin) joins an all-girl rock band called Queens of Dogtown. The “Californication Season 4” Television Soundtrack features several tunes from Queens of Dogtown, along with other music from a variety of bands that “play a part in bringing to life many of the storylines of the new season).

The soundtrack features a lot of songs you are bound to be familiar with covered by artists you may be less familiar with…Eagles of Death Metal do a power rock rendition of the Stealers Wheel’s classic, “Stuck In The Middle With You”, even renaming it “Stuck In The Metal”. It’s actually a lot less metal than you might think. Better Than Ezra revamp “So Alive”, the breakout hit for alt rock godfathers, Love and Rockets. Queens of Dogtown do several cover tunes, including “Would?” (Alice In Chains), “Last Caress” (Misfits) and “I Remember You” (Skid Row). “Would?” just sounds wrong with anyone but Layne Staley singing it, but their removal of the power from Skid Row’s smash power ballad is surprisingly effective. Two songs buried in here that stood out were Cracker’s midtempo gem, “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out With Me” and the gentle acoustic piece “If I Go, I'm Goin”, beautifully sung by Gregory Alan Isakov.

Some of the originals are just silly (the Shooter Jennings contribution, “F**k You (I’m Famous)” or boring (“Second Life Replay” by The Soundtrack of Our Lives). The soundtrack ends on a pathetic note with a dreadful version of “Home Sweet Home” by Tommy Lee and a chorus of others who probably want to remain anonymous.

The “Californication Season 4” soundtrack is a must for fans of cover tunes. Personally, I’m not finding a whole lot here that I’ll be coming back to anytime soon.

iPOD-worthy: 8, 9, 12

More info here. The soundtrack is out today on CD or in digital format.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: The Sound Of Growing Up “Drifting” [EP]

Boston based pop rock band The Sound Of Growing Up is releasing a new 5 song EP titled "Drifting" due out in February. The happy go lucky single, “The Kite” is present twice on the EP, as a full band recording as well as a stripped down acoustic home demo version. “The Kite” is a perfect pop rock song – bouncy and bright - just a joy to listen to over and over. I prefer the full band version, by the way. “Swing” has a similar sound and pace, but the horns add a dynamic that makes this one a winner too. The lead vocalist in this band is perfect for their sound – he’s got an indie rock streak, but can swing up to a pleasant falsetto. The gentle ukulele and atmospheric vocals make “Drifting” truly feel like it was recorded on a cloud, but the song is kind of boring for me. Finally, “I Have No Reason” is a worthy mid-tempo rocker – not as strong as the first two tracks, but no slouch either. Overall, a very promising EP worth checking out if you like Dashboard Confessional, Plain White T’s, or All-American Rejects.

The Sound Of Growing Up on MySpace. Facebook.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

RAMOS HUGO “The Dream” (2008)

Two well-known musicians on the AOR scene teamed up to produce an astonishing record for Journey and The Storm lovers – RAMOS HUGO was definitely a hotly anticipated release in 2008. Funny thing is when I first listen to this album, I found it to be pretty decent - good but not great - then the third spin caught me off guard and told my mind that this one is actually a winner. The single problem with "The Dream" is the ultra-close comparison to Journey - sometimes you even think you're listening to a lost Journey record - but if you can overcome that issue, the beauty of each song eventually blossoms nicely and the whole bunch turns out to be a big treat for your ears.

Some spectacular tracks inside are "You're Not Alone", "All That I Wanted", "Bring Back This Love", "I Don't Wanna Say Goodbye", and "Tomorrow". Those tracks usually have memorable lines, sing along choruses, dense solos, and silky compositions. The title track rips "Don't Stop Believin'" a little bit but remains a good song. "When You Get Lonely" and "In The City" are good tracks as well, perhaps only "Fools Game" and "I Can Take You" are passable fillers in my book.

With flawless production and top notch songwriting, I highly praise this album. Ramos put up some colorful solos and Hugo unleashed his optimal vocal effort. Only a couple fillers keeps this album from a perfect rating but all in all, "The Dream" is one excellent AOR release from 2008.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rare Trax: Hoodoo Gurus "Good Times"

Every Saturday at BMF we present rare or deep tracks from my collection for your listening pleasure, or perhaps for your amusement!

This week’s track is "Good Times" by the Hoodoo Gurus from their album, "Blow Your Cool!". Recognize the backing vocals? They are supplied by The Bangles!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Review: Readymade Breakup “Readymade Breakup”

Reaching out to your ears from Asbury Park, NJ, modern rockers Readymade Breakup take it up a notch on their latest, self-titled CD. Described as a band that is a “sonic clash of four distinct personalities butting heads to create a sound that transcends its parts”, Readymade Breakup is readymade for the big time.

Produced by Steve Evetts (The Cure, Saves The Day, Dillinger Escape Plan), “Readymade Breakup” proves that the third time is a charm. This time out the band has hardened their sound, polished the hooks, and delivered the songs with passion. The powerful performances are augmented by a thick wall of sound that makes these tunes feel as if they were designed for the arena. “Inside All Along” introduces us to this matured sound – a slow burning winner of a tune. “Just” and “Waiting For You” are radio-friendly rockers with very sticky choruses. “There” gets off to an uncertain start, but there is a bridge in there worth waiting for. The intriguingly titled “Unzip My Face” is an in your face rocker complete with infectious backing vocals and handclaps in the chorus. The record closes with “Erased”, an exceptional 70s-styled gem with eerie verses reminding me of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage”.

The nine tracks gracing “Readymade Breakup” clock in just under a half hour, but it is a spectacular way to spend 30 minutes. Blending the classic rock riffs of Collective Soul, the indie flavored style of Sloan, and the sincerity of Pearl Jam, Readymade Breakup is a thoroughly enjoyable mix.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9

Readymade Breakup on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to "Waiting For You"

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: Redondo Beat “Meet Redondo Beat”

Multi-instrumentalist Roman Aul is Redondo Beat, and while he hails from Freigericht, Germany, you’d swear he lived a previous life in American during the late 50s and early 60s. The music of Redondo Beat is a remarkably good throwback to the Golden Era of Rock and Roll, heavily influenced by the classic sounds of The Beach Boys, Bobby Vee, and Dion And The Belmonts. Any of the 10 tracks from “Meet Redondo Beat” could easily be mistaken for something you’d hear off an old 45.

“Meet Redondo Beat” gets off to an exciting start with the fun and infectious song, “The Sweetest Sound”. This tune is probably the best example of how well Aul can marry the classic styles of yesteryear with today’s contemporary sounds. “The Spell I’m Under” thrills with verses that remind me of the smash hit “Runaway” by Del Shannon. “My Baby” is another one of my favorites, this one revealing a love for Raspberries-styled melodies and bubble gun pop from the 70s. “Full Moon Child” expertly blends a country base line and 60s riffs reminiscent of Credence Clearwater Revival. “Can’t Wait Until Saturday Night” is a peppy number that would have been a 50s high school dance standard back in the day.

The production is solid and Aul fleshes out the backbeat with delectable female backing vocals, tasteful guitar, and plenty of bouncy piano. Despite that the songs are inspired from a diverse assortment of original rock and roll artists, from surf rock to Doo Wop, the record is cohesive from start to finish. I imagine many of today’s music fans, however, may grow weary of the sound about halfway through. I found it to be a lot of fun. In the unlikely event that the Golden Era of Rock and Roll will rise again, Redondo Beat could be “the leader of the pack”.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 9

Redondo Beat on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “The Sweetest Sound”

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Book Report: “Grunge Seattle” by Justin Henderson

I was a graduate student sweating at the lab bench, trying to wrap my head around an experiment, feeling as if I were forcing a round peg into a square hole. Our amusingly spacey, long haired janitor was making his rounds and asked if we heard the news. As he tosses our trash into his supersized bin, he announced coldly that Kurt Cobain was dead. Suicide. I figured he was joking or had his facts wrong. Kurt Cobain dead? No way…he just revolutionized music.

The new book “Grunge Seattle” by Justin Henderson is a concise and easy read that paints a new perspective on the musical blitzkrieg that destroyed glam, pop metal, and the Spandex and hairspray industries in a single swoop. Henderson does not rehash the rise and demise of grunge, Nirvana and their brethren – enough has been written on those subjects to fill the Space Needle. Instead, he provides a unique look at the role Seattle played in shaping the bands that define the era, which had its origins in the late 1980s. Four archetype bands are covered extensively (Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden), with props given to lesser known – yet just as important - outfits along the way (Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, and more).

Henderson knows Seattle – his book is focused and to the point, describing the very neighborhoods (complete with maps!) that spawned the grunge musicians. He explains how this atmosphere made it inevitable that these musicians would converge to write gritty and dirty material, which somehow emerged to strike a chord with millions of people beyond Jet City. Henderson also sheds light on why so many of the band members were destined for self-destruction. Fans of the grunge bands will delight in the trivia and Henderson’s revelations about the town that gave birth to them. The wider audience of music fans will appreciate Henderson’s take on how astute marketers can form a movement centered on a certain ineffable “sound”. The Seattle bands are often lumped together as “grunge”, yet had remarkably different musical influences (Nirvana borrowed heavily from The Pixies and Soundgarden wanted to be the next Led Zeppelin). Regardless, the brooding and dark material provided a common thread to tie them altogether.

Cobain’s death is often cited as the end of the short-lived grunge genre itself - another round peg that tried to fit into a square hole. But as Henderson implies, the mark left on the rock and roll landscape is permanent. Whether you despise the grunge movement or think it was the best thing to even happen to music, “Grunge Seattle” is informative and entertaining.

“Grunge Seattle” is a volume from the MusicPlace Series by Roaring Forties Press ( For more books in this series, including “Jimi Hendrix London”, check out the web site.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: Black Biscuit “Blueline”

Weird garage rock
Black Biscuit…sounds like my mom’s cooking. But no, “black biscuit” in this case is a slang term for a hockey puck, and the band of the same name is comprised of hockey players from Yakima, Washington. They have not only been playing hockey together since high school, but also have been playing music together since high school. Their first CD, “Blueline” was released in 2008 and has been described as “Buddy Holly meets Generation X”. The eleven songs on this CD are as strange and goofy as the titles: “Robbie the Robot”, “Surfin’ In Afghanistan”, “Hockey Goon”. Though offbeat, some of these tunes are a fun novelty to listen to, especially the aforementioned “Robbie the Robot”. Some classic rock references are incorporated into their alternative rock tunes, such as a clear Rolling Stones inspired riff in “Don’t Touch My Cigarettes”. The Buddy Holly comparison comes out in the 50s flavored melody in “Say Goodbye”. Unfortunately, the low production value, iffy vocals, and mediocre performances make this a tough listen in most places. But if amateur garage rock is your thing, you might score with Black Biscuit.

Black Biscuit on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “Robbie the Robot”

Monday, January 3, 2011

Review: Arthur “Watch The Years Crawl By”

Arthur is a side project of current and past members of the Bremerton, WA punk band MxPx. Lead by the versatile Mike “Arthur” Herrera, Arthur is a clear departure from MxPx into more mainstream pop punk, such as Blink-182 or Jimmy Eat World. Arthur first came onto the scene in 1999 with an EP entitled “Loneliness Is Bliss”, which incidentally is now available for the first time as a digital download at the official web site below. “Watch The Years Crawl By” is the long awaited full-length debut from Arthur.

Like MxPx and Tumbledown, Arthur helps to prove that almost everything Mike Herrera touches turns to gold. The 12 songs on this hotly anticipated side project have a very melodic appeal and lend themselves well to contemporary radio. The boys are restrained compared to the raw energy of MxPx, but not so restrained that their passion for the music isn’t felt. And some tunes, like “Heartache”, channel the high octane pace of their punk roots. “Watch The Years Crawl By” has no throwaways or filler, as each song is likeable. The tunes are quick and to the point, getting to the hook fast. In some cases, almost too fast…the song is so short it sounds more like an idea that needed to be fleshed out further. Highlights include “Cold Outside”, “America”, “Heartache”, and “Still Haven’t Reached You”. There is quite the power ballad in “To Have and To Hold” that I think most people would enjoy as well.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 11, 12

Arthur on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “America”